Trial and Error

A previously unknown species of bird-like dinosaur with pterosaur-like wings has been discovered by a team of paleontologists working with the Chinese Academy of Science. The discovery, reported in the May 9 issue of the journal Nature, sheds some new light on the origins of avian flight. A nearly complete skeleton of Ambopteryx longibrachium was unearthed near Wubaiding Village in China’s Liaoning Province.

Named Ambopteryx longibrachium, the new dinosaur lived approximately 163 million years ago (Jurassic period) in modern day China. The prehistoric creature had a body length of about 12.6 inches (32 cm) and an estimated body mass of 300 g. It belongs to Scansoriopterygidae, an extinct family of climbing and gliding non-avian theropod dinosaurs.

Unlike other flying dinosaurs, namely birds, this species has membranous wings supported by a rod-like wrist bone that is not found in any other dinosaur, but is present in pterosaurs and flying squirrels. These wing structures represent a short-lived and unsuccessful attempt to fly, according to scientists.

Ambopteryx longibrachium. Image credit: Chung-Tat Cheung & Min Wang / Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In contrast, feathered wings, first documented in Late Jurassic non-avian dinosaurs, were further refined through the evolution of numerous skeletal and soft tissue modifications, giving rise to at least two additional independent origins of dinosaur flight and ultimately leading to the current success of modern birds.

Brand New Dinosaur Discovered In Venezuela

An international team of researchers have unearthed two leg bone fossils of the new species in the Andes Mountains near Venezuela’s western border, LiveScience reports.

The fossils indicate the first carnivorous dinosaur discovered in the country was about 4.9 to 6.5 feet long from nose to tail. The creature lived about 201 million years ago, during the early Jurassic period, on the ancient supercontinent Pangaea.

They’re calling the new dinosaur the “Thief of Tachira,” but this feisty little dinosaur  doesn’t sound like the sort that would have stolen many hearts. In fact, Tachiraptor admirabilis doesn’t seem very friendly at all.

The researchers said Tachiraptor was likely an ancestor of bigger dinosaurs like T. rex that lived in the later Jurassic. Their discovery may shed new light on the evolution of dinosaurs following the End-Triassic mass extinction that occurred a million years before Tachiraptor lived.

The paper describing the discovery was published Oct. 8 in the journal Royal Society Open Science.